“We cannot have too much hospitality and too much diplomacy all at the expense of Filipino women.” – Rep. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela Women’s Party
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – In a dialogue with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, women’s rights advocates decried the fact that the government has no back up plan in case the government of Panama would not waive the diplomatic immunity of Erik Shcks, a diplomat deployed in the Philippines accused of raping 19-year-old ‘Pamela.’
“We cannot comment on that yet because it would be purely hypothetical,” Joms Salvador, deputy secretary general of Gabriela, quoted Foreign undersecretary Administration Rafael Regis as saying.
When the group insisted that the government should at least have a back up plan no matter what the response of the Panama government would be, Regis reportedly replied that the Philippine government would have to wait. “Until when, they do not also know.”
Shcks, who claims to be a technical specialist for the Panama Maritime Authority, introduced himself to ‘Pamela’ as a seafarer. The accused reportedly befriended Pamela then made her sniff marijuana before allegedly raping her on April 23, 2012 at around 11 p.m. in Shck’s condominium unit. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group received the complaint the following day and arrested Shcks right away.
The Department of Foreign Affairs first said that Shcks is not covered by diplomatic immunity. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, of which the Philippines is a signatory, guarantees that a diplomatic agent shall “enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State” and that waiving it could only be done by the sending state.
But the Makati Regional Trial Court soon ordered for the release of Shcks after it received a certificate from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the accused is indeed covered by diplomatic immunity.
“Pamela sought the help of Gabriela when she realized that the Philippine government was already taking the side of the Panamanian embassy,” Gabriela’s statement read, adding that the victim was “shocked to see the Panamanian ambassador to the Philippines appearing at the CIDG filling papers in attempts to release (Shcks).”
Gabriela, in a statement, said they are “up in arms against the arm twisting acts by the Department of Foreign Affairs to spring free the accused” and allow him to escape possible prosecution as stipulated in the Philippine laws.
“We are aghast that the DFA, instead of defending Philippine nationals and upholding our laws against these criminal aggressors, are shamelessly acting as the shysters of the Panamanian embassy in efforts to keep accused rapist Erick Barnals Shcks from paying up to the crime he committed against our fellow Filipino and in our own country,” Salvador said.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan said that unless President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III will “show enough political will to make diplomatic criminals accountable, the rape case lodged against Panamanian Eric Shcks will set a dangerous precedent that will expose Filipino women to further violence and abuse.”
“We cannot have too much hospitality and too much diplomacy all at the expense of Filipino women,” Ilagan added.
Ilagan called to task Aquino and the Department of Foreign Affairs to exercise political will in making the Panamanian national accountable.
“It is an outrage,” said Ilagan, referring to the dialogue with Department of Foreign Affairs official, where diplomatic immunity can protect foreigners no matter how heinous the crime that is being accused to them.
Ilagan and fellow Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus are set to file a resolution to look into and seek clarification regarding the Philippine government’s foreign relations policy regarding such abuses committed against women in the Philippines.
Obet Montes, director of Health and Services of Gabriela, said she has seen Pamela once when she sought the assistance of the women’s rights group, describing the victim as in a “state of shock.”
“She is not doing fine. I am worried about her because she looks very fragile,” Montes told Bulatlat.com, “She seems as if her mind is wandering off somewhere whenever you are talking to her.”
Montes said she observes the same symptoms whenever she counseling victims of rape, among other forms of sexual harassments. She added that Pamela is still having nightmares from what happened to her.
Gabriela vowed to defend and fight for the rights of Pamela and other women victims of sexual abuses. “The DFA and the president himself must be held accountable for this serious offense against Pamela and other Filipinas sacrificed in the name of subservience to foreign interests.”